School’s In & Other Stuff

Returning-to-work

I go back to work tomorrow. *Breathes deeply*

This week is the week before students go back to school. Maryland’s governor has pushed back the start date of school for students in order for the State to enjoy another week of summer break (read: Labor Day shmoney.) For a school-based SLP, this is the week before the craziness begins. There’s a chance to set-up speech rooms/offices/shared space/closets, acclimate oneself with the school schedule, culture, administrative staff, and teachers. There’s also the chance to look at the caseload, print IEP’s and get the organizational systems under way. I like the fresh slate of the beginning.

There’s the exciting part of the newness and then the prayers that your students won’t give you a run for your money. Or that the special education team is not a mess. In spite of all the unknowns, I’m thankful for a career where I’m needed and I’m glad to have a job!

This year, I’ll be getting a big lesson on time management as I work on my passion project part time. With a part time job starting my company and part time in the schools, I’m looking forward to where I’ll be 6 months from now. As for now, I’m enjoying the end of my last day of vacation.

What was the highlight of your summer?

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School’s In & Other Stuff

VLOG: When You Don’t Feel Valued as a Professional (SLP)

She shares Pro’s and Con’s of working in a school building full time as a speech and language pathologist:

Pro’s

  • I love the population I work with. (Learn more about autism here.)
  • I’m  learning how to manage a large caseload.
  • Therapy is not a one-size fits all, I’m getting creative on how to meet my student’s individualized needs.
  • I like some of the experiences of being fully immersed in a school.

Con’s

  • People, people, people!! (better known as Co-workers)
  • When you don’t feel respected as a professional.
  • When you have a hard time collaborating with teachers.

How do you (as an SLP or a member of the IEP team) manage working with difficult people or teachers? Have you ever worked on a school team that didn’t value your input as a professional?

DO SHARE!

 

VLOG: When You Don’t Feel Valued as a Professional (SLP)

Grad School Reality

Image from WeHeartIt.com

Today was a day that will go down in graduate school history.

I tweeted (@TracitaLinda) earlier this week that I felt like my first day of graduate school was Tuesday, September 25th. Technically, I started school on August 20th but I didn’t feel the brunt of this weight until earlier this week. This past Tuesday was the day us first years were to be prepared for a full day of therapy. Lesson plans were approved and we arrived at the school at 8:30AM. I got a taste of how things run in a school and the extreme amount of stress all around– meetings for students are scheduled and canceled within hours, students are not in school or in the classes they are supposed to be in when you’re looking for them, and it’s an extremely Go with the Flow and Be Ye Always Ready type environments. Our supervisor tells us that in the beginning of the year and towards the end of the year things are always crazy, but Mama ain’t never say there would be days like this. At the end of the day, out of the 8 students on my caseload I had only seen one and managed to complete our training for the website the school uses to input progress notes (aka SOAP notes). Doesn’t sound like much but it was a high-stress day. Not to mention I still had Wednesday and Thursday of classes to look forward to.

Today I experienced Grad School Overload. And I don’t expect it will be the last time I feel this way.

Here’s how my day went:

  1. I woke up at 9:15 am and rushed to my dental appointment scheduled for 10am.
  2. Got to the Dentist at 10:20AM; spent 3 hours doing Intake and X-ray procedures (that’s the downside to school-sponsored services).
  3. Proceeded to go to Computer Lab to finish Group Presentation assigned for later that day and Lesson Plans due by 5pm today.
  4. At 1:34pm received texts from classmate asking “Are you Ok?”
  5. Thought to myself, of course I’m okay, I’m working hard in the computer lab.
  6. Got another text from a group member that said “We just presented, hope you’re okay.”
  7. Heart dropped. Had planned on going to class at 4pm, not realizing said class was moved up to 1pm 2 weeks ago.
  8. SH(*%#(*$#$(*!!!!!

So, it’s bad enough I missed on hour of class. But to make things worst I had missed my group’s presentation on one of the Tests we were assigned to present to our class. I worked hard on my little slide and the Demo we were going to present. And I was literally sitting in the Lab tying up loose ends and making sure I was prepared for any extra questions. But I sat in the Computer Lab through my group’s Presentation.

I missed my first Group Presentation of Grad School. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

After I cried internally and thought to myself  “Couldn’t no one pick up the phone?!” I dealt with reality. I spoke to my professor during the break and she was totally cool about it. This project required us to meet and put a Powerpoint together and I was present for that, so I shouldn’t worry about it. She made me feel better. But of course, I’m considering this my wake up call.

FUTURE AND CURRENT GRADUATE STUDENTS: LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE

Here was my first sign I was going to crash; all my days started blending together. Late nights and (somewhat) early mornings will do that to you. When this happens, make sure you schedule in some time for SLEEP and just gather yourself and prioritize your tasks. Plan to sleep! I’m serious here.

Some background information about me; I like schedules and I’m rigid sometimes. This first semester we’ve had class time changes and clinic placements given to us and then retracted so many times…I  lost count. I have a physical schedule book that has more things crossed out than I care to look at. This is my first mistake. If you want to stay sane in graduate school (especially in Communication Disorders) and to be where you are expected- KEEP YOUR SCHEDULE/PLANNER/PHONE updated and within arms reach. Don’t depend on having to text someone or seeing someone in your program to let you know where you are to be.

Secondly, don’t depend on anyone to check in with you or remind you . At the end of the day, you are responsible for yourself  and your members. Any appointment or meeting you miss, or any work that is not submitted by deadlines are on you. Simple.
One  impression that stuck with me through orientation is that this school prides itself on EXCELLENCE WITHOUT EXCUSES. Makes sense. That was important to me because if you think about it, there can always be an excuse for some shortcoming on our part. But when do we learn to get out of the victim mentality and accept full responsibility?

We couldn’t Ace the exam because we got our Study Guide late?

We didn’t prepare materials for our client because we didn’t have access to the Department’s lending system?

We put together some last minute lesson plans because we had midterms?

None of these reasons will fly in the real world, and so… Welcome to the Real World.

Because I Want to Do Better,

She

Grad School Reality

Meet My Friend, Amir: Video

Amir is Arabic for prince, ruler or prosperous.

My first question to him is What is your name?

AFTER YOU WATCH:

The SLP growing in me wants to point out that Amir, at 3 years old, did exhibit a little bit of stuttering which is quite common at this age. Since I wrote a whole research paper about stuttering you should know that childhood stuttering is the most common form of stuttering and some children eventually grow out of it, while others don’t (for reasons not quite known, only speculated.) Stuttering is considered a fluency disorder, because it disrupts the “fluency and timing patterns” of speech and is characterized by 3 features: prolongations (draggggging out a sound longer than is necessary), blocks (airflow and movement/sound is completely stopped) and repetitions. You may be most familiar with repetitions, as it’s one of the most obvious signs that someone stutters. Repetitions is when “a sound, syllable or word is repeated several times to the point that it interrupts the flow of speech.” We hear Amir saying ‘and, and, and I‘ when he’s telling me about his family, he’s obviously a big talker who wants to share this information with me so I can say his excitement is probably what is causing him to repeat the word “and.” His repetitions occur in a short moment in time and don’t prevent him from getting his point across so I don’t think his parents have anything to worry about at this point. But I would tell his parents to be mindful about it as he gets older, since the longer-term stuttering occurs more in males than females (the last I read the ratio was about 4:1, male to female). [All quotes in this text are from Justice, 2010]

Not like I have the power to go around diagnosing people anyways (just yet), just observing the world around me with more critical/clinical eyes now. Grad School, go easy on meeeeee!!

Another critique I have about myself is that I’m very controlling around children (and in most relationships, as a matter of fact). The video sounded more like an interview than a conversation; I like to be the director. Sometimes certain therapy techniques require we let the children lead and initiate by allowing them time to show us their interests. I wonder if I will have a hard time with this, since I’m always thinking about what to say/ask next, how to lead the child or focus his attention on a specific task…it’s something I’ve been thinking about.

If you’re an #SLPeep, do you find it hard to not go around making assumptions about speech and language difficulties with kids in your family or complete strangers’ speech? How do you keep yourself from not jumping to conclusions?

Feedback welcomed.

Meet My Friend, Amir: Video

Tracing the Nursing Home

My latest {ad}venture has me volunteering in a nursing home for less than two weeks, since I am due to be back in school pretty soon and was interested in a way to maximize my time back in the City. I was advised by a Speech Therapist to volunteer some time working with a population I had never worked with before; the elderly. Considering that I love to volunteer and that it would look great on my resume, I jumped at the idea and found a nursing in which the application wouldn’t take weeks to process. The nursing home assigned me to assist the Recreational Therapy department in their daily activities.

Tomorrow makes one full week, and it’s a little bittersweet thinking about leaving soon being that I’ve just started solidifying some consistency and relationships with the residents, especially those who speak Spanish. Please note, no actual names have been used to protect the privacy of the patients/residents.

 

Here’s how my past week went:

Thursday Jan 12th, 9:30am-12:30pm

This was my first official day of volunteering after having met with the Volunteer Coordinator on Monday. She introduces me to the folks over at Recreational Therapy (RT) in an office that’s basically one big open room with about 6-8 desks cramped along the perimeters of the walls. In the middle of the room there’s carts filled with plastic containers of arts, crafts and knick-knacks.

I am paired up with one of the therapists. We go up to the floor she’s responsible for, the 2nd floor, and she does a bead project with the women there who are willing and able. She pairs me up with a Dominican man who is 54 but who looks to be in his late 60’s due to his condition. We play 10 hands of dominoes, in which I win one. Not only does he not speak much English, I notice that half of his face/mouth seems to be paralyzed because when he speaks he only moves the right side of his jaw. With careful attention, his Spanish is decipherable, and due to extrinsic redundancy (he habitually repeats his phrases 2 times)  I am able to engage in conversation with him. After the butt-whopping, Mr. DR is taken to physical therapy.

In comes a raspy-voiced, healthy and formidable Puerto Rican woman with all white hair. Before I see her, I hear her. Her favorite question is ‘Mami, what I do?‘ or in other words, What would you like me to do, now? which is her way of asking the nurse/attendant what they would like her to do next. At first I figured that it was a question of wanting reassurance, or demonstrating her dependency but as she sat in the day room for about 30 minutes she could not sit still and go 5 minutes without asking out loud Mami what I do? to anyone listening. Since she can only see well out of one eye, I deduced asks the question to make sure someone is around and that she’s not completely alone.

I learn that she has recently lost her husband, who also lived in the nursing home, and since then she does not hesitate in telling you ‘I am scared‘ or asking ‘I shouldn’t be scared, right?’ making it clear that she does not want to be left alone. I work on a simple motor activity exercise with her, having to repeat the task to her over and over since in between every action she takes the opportunity to ask me ‘Mami, what I do?’  The hardest part was reassuring her that she was in a room full of people, so there was no need to be afraid. I realize that comforting the residents and speaking positivity to them is a big part of the job, so I try my best to be genuine.

Friday Jan 13th, 9:30am-1:30am

Today I’m matched with a different therapist and we head to the 5th floor. The activity today is a chat, and so everyone is gathered around and the topic is Superstition and the upcoming celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday. The therapist tries to engage her audience by asking questions, and sharing personal stories. I meet another Dominican woman, who’s speech is fine and she complains about her leg being no longer ‘any good’ which resulted in her thinking that she was no longer ‘any good.’ Immediately I want to encourage her, but it’s hard for me to find the words in Spanish. I remind her that we are all on Earth for a reason, and I make a mental note to be prepared with much better rebuttals the next time.

Monday, Jan 16th 10:00am-1:30pm

I am the only volunteer working on a holiday, but I don’t mind because I know my time is short. I am back on the second floor, as the therapist begins an activity of ‘Word Search’ using the phrase I HAVE A DREAM SPEECH. The residents come up with 39 words, which is ironic, being that MLK died at that age. I then spend some one-on-one time with another resident, teaching her how to play dominoes again.

Tuesday, Jan 17th 9:30am-1:30pm

On the second floor there’s an arts and crafts project that involves hearts and painting for Valentine’s Day. I am assigned to a woman we’ll call Ms. Relentless because she had no desire in staying in the recreation room, all she wanted to do was go and lay down on her bad.

Ms. Relentless: I don’t feel well, I want to go to bed.

Me: I’m sorry, the nurses don’t want you in the room by yourself. It’s a safety issue. What happens if you try to get up and fall?

Ms. R: I just don’t feel well, I have to sit on this chair all day and it’s tiring. I’d rather lay in my bed, my back hurts.

{Therapist offers to bring her a pillow for her wheelchair. She comes back with a pillow and a magazine for her}

Ms. R: **Quiet for 2 minutes** When my daughters come, I’m going to tell them to take me out of this place. Some people talk to me nice, and others treat me bad, I don’t know why I don’t do anything to anybody.

Me: *thinking* I’m sure your daughters want you to be as comfortable as possible, but people here have your best interest at heart.

Ms. R: Some people here have ill intentions, I don’t know why I don’t do anything to anybody.

Me: *quiet*

Ms. R: I don’t feel well, I want to go to my room.

Me: You can’t go to your room until after lunch. You have to wait a little while.

Ms. R: My stomach hurts, can I have some coffee?

Me: You already had breakfast, lunch will be served in another 30 minutes.

Ms. R: I don’t feel well, I want to go to my room. I’m not bothering anyone when I’m in my room laying down.

This goes on for about the next half hour, until I practically have nothing else to say. I realize that the art of persuasion is harder than I anticipate, and takes some real skill, not mere back-and-forth. Negotiation is tied in there somehow as well, but since I don’t know necessarily what I can or cannot promise, I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth.

Wed Jan 18th, 10am-1:30pm

Today was probably the most productive day for me. There was a professional art class held with an outside teacher who comes once a week, and I got to see just how therapeutic painting can be. First, everyone chose pictures from magazine cut-outs. Then with their palate’s chosen, and the drawing/free-handing begins. I help with small details in paintings, or simply when someone’s hand gets tired, I encourage them by picking up the brush and filling in what they don’t have the strength to finish. I love how engaged and encouraging the art teacher is, they trust her judgment, advice and opinions. When I realize that an outlet such as art is something most of the residents look forward to every week, I start to be thankful for those people who take their jobs seriously in that place. I know sometimes the work can get redundant, even frustrating, but those caregivers are very, very necessary.

Nursing homes are not necessarily the happiest place, but some do their very best to offer a real home environment. Before seeing how one works first-hand, I thought bad about the family’s who drop their elderly and go on about their lives. I could never imagine putting my mother in her old age in a place like that, but I know that for someone who needs care around-the-clock a home-based nurse costs lots of money and circumstances play a major role in such a difficult decision. I know it’s easy to judge what you will do when you’re not being faced with the situation. When that time comes, I pray to God that I have the flexibility to take care of my mother. But I no longer knock those who are forced to place their loved ones in the hands of strangers.

Changed,

She

Tracing the Nursing Home